Tuesday, April 28, 2015

April Author Interview: Alice Jay Wisler

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I met Alice Wisler through the American Christian Fiction Writers Association and one of the Facebook groups that I frequent. When she highlighted her latest book Under the Silk Hibiscus, I had to read it. I wasn’t disappointed. Be sure to check out her website. I’d already read her lovely book Still Life in Shadows and it was great getting to meet this wonderful author.

Here’s Amazon’s blurb for Under the Silk Hibicus:

During World War Two, Nathan and his family are sent to Heart Mountain, an internment camp in Wyoming for Japanese-Americans. Nathan's one desire is to protect the family's gold pocket watch, a family heirloom brought over from Japan. He fails; the watch is stolen. Struggling to make sense of his life in a bleak camp as the only responsible man of the household, Nathan discovers truths about his family, God, and the girl he loves.

I found the book to be a deep dive into a setting I had only passing knowledge of. Nathan’s story and the view Alice gives of his Japanese American culture is so vivid, you’ll be captured immediately.  Read this book!


ZM: Welcome to The Shade, Alice. I love Under the Silk Hibiscus because you let us into Nathan and his family’s life without flinching from the ugliness of the WWII era. How did your knowledge of the Japanese culture aid your depiction of this very real family?

Alice:  Thanks for letting me be your guest, Zan.  It’s good to be here.  Growing up in Japan helped me understand many of the cultural aspects of my fictionalized family in my novel. I know that family, responsibility, and honor are important and highly valued. I wanted to make sure I depicted that with the Mori family.

ZM: How did you start writing? Tell us a bit about your journey to publication.

Alice:  I wanted to write a book ever since I could read books.  I was in first and second grades at Kyoto International School when my teacher, Miss Terwilliger, had me read my stapled-and-stick-figure illustrated stories to my classmates.  She believed in me and that stuck with me over the years.

ZM: What inspires your books? How do you discover the stories?

Alice: People, glimpses of the heart, truths God teaches—those all inspire me. I discover my stories while driving to a conference, while on a walk on a spring morning, when sharing coffee with friends. I keep a little notebook in my purse to jot things down when something strikes me.  Sometimes, the muse hits me during Sunday morning and it looks like I’m taking sermon notes in the church pew, but really, I’m deciding how the sermon topic will fit in with my main character!

ZM: (whispering) I’ve been known to do that, too. It’ll be our secret. ;-)

Many craft books stress that writers must read and read a lot. Who is your favorite author, or what is your favorite genre? What draws you to a book you read for enjoyment?

Alice:  I love contemporary fiction the best.  My favorite authors are Amy Tan and Elizabeth Berg for their ability to capture people and scenes that tug at my heart. I like novels that are well-crafted, have a touch of humor, and are realistic.

ZM: What is your next book about and when can we expect to get to read it?

Alice:  We shall see, Zan, we shall see.  I’m working on a number of both fiction and non-fiction manuscripts right now.

ZM: Thank you for dropping by Into the Shade of the Cherry Tree, Alice! I can’t wait to read some more of your stories.

Alice J. Wisler was born and raised in Japan as a missionary kid. She is the author of Getting Out of Bed in the Morning, and five novels. Rain Song and How Sweet It Is were Christy finalists. Ever since the cancer death of her four-year-old son Daniel in 1997, she has found solace in writing from heartache and teaches Writing the Heartache workshops across the country.
She lives in Durham, NC with her husband and children where they have a wood carving business, Carved By Heart. Visit her website at alicewisler.com.

Next Week: IWSG--Fail Big

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

April Mini Book Reviews: 4 Books to Consider...K. Callihan, J. Clavell, D. Ducharme, C. O'Flynn

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 SOULBOUND Kristen Callihan: Historical-Paranormal-Steampunk Romance

Really! I know you were blown away by the genre designation on Callihan's latest, but if you've read her Darkest London series, you know that's what it is. ;-) Her deep characters and whiplash plot will pull you in and keep you reading. Warning: This is on the erotic side of romance. Reader beware.  

SHOGUN James Clavell: Historical

Clavell's Asian Saga is a periodic reread for me. Here's the book that caused such a stir with it's debut in 1975 and it became a hit mini series as well. The book tells the story of old Japan, replete with samurai, ninja, geisha, and characters who will live forever--Toda Mariko, Yoshi Toranaga, and the English pilot who turns their live upside down-John Blackthorne.

THE OUTER BANKS HOUSE Diann Ducharme: Historical Romance

Ducharme's hypnotic historical will pull into a world you've never visited before--the North Carolina Outer Banks in 1868. And immerse you in an unlikely romance between a planter's daughter and a "banker" fisherman. I dare you to forget this one once you've read it. ;-)


This is a richly detailed coming of age and quest story that draws you into a world of wonder and surprising revelations. I will be looking for part two of this new series. 

Next Week: Author Interview with Alice Wisler

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

April Tip: 5 Links for conquering the Sinister Synopsis

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Some of you may know that I've been tackling the Sinister Synopsis lately. Agents need them to prove we have a complete story. They then use synopses to sell our books to publishers. I know you've been told to tell your story in X number of pages. I've had to write a one-page synopsis for the first contest, and, believe me, it's a challenge to sum up a 79,000 word story in one page! Yikes! In order to do it, I've had to investigate a few links for helpful info. Like the Somebody Wanted something, But Something happened, So they did this in the cartoon above. I hope a few of these links help you, too.

Back to Basics: Writing a Novel Synopsis Janet Friedman

How to Write a Synopsis--Nathan Bransford

Learning to Love the Synopsis Jael McHenry

The Anatomy of a Short Synopsis Christine Fonesca

How to Write a Synopsis of a Novel Glenn Strathy

Good luck, writers! Do you have a few suggestions to share?
Next Week: The latest of the Mini Book Reviews. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

4 April Snips!

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In honor of Spring--thank God, it's finally here--I wanted to share a few snips that involve nature and a few spring pics of what you'd see if you came to Cherry Hill. ;-)
This is why there is a Cherry Hill. ;-)
Late Spring:

Dappled shade and bright patches of vinca and impatiens along the path gave me the calm I craved. I entered the cool green oasis under magnolia blooms scented heavily with lemon and vanilla. A flock of Canada geese honked at each other as a mother goose, followed by five fluffy goslings, sailed by on the small lake. The little ones were puffs of downy yellow-gray as their legs worked overtime to keep up with their stately mother. Male mockingbirds stretched out their wings in the time-honored ritual to show how big they 
 were in hope of attracting the ladies.

Of course, Laura Grace has azaleas, too

Nearly Summer...

The square was lined with cherry trees in full leaf casting cool shade over the brick sidewalks. I rather missed April’s pink clouds of cherry blossoms drifting over the carpet of rose, white, and pink azaleas at their feet. Though on a hot day in May, shade might be more refreshing.
And daffodils. Hyacinths, too.
Next comes autumn. Besides, weeding is a good use of anger, don't you think? ;-)

Her doubts about my abilities didn’t change the need of the foster children. And yes, Samantha’s pain had given me direction, but I’d help anyone. She would just have to deal with that. Sometimes even best friends had to go different ways. I turned back to the flower bed and grabbed the first weed I saw. Its pale roots gave way to my fury and I threw it at her retreating back.

The iris are putting up new shoots, too.
And then comes winter...

A cold steady rain swaddled Cherry Hill in a gray cocoon of winter. I could only hope that the waterlogged flowerbeds wouldn’t drown my mother’s iris. The painstaking digging I had done at her home place after her passing would have been in vain if it did. Maybe the rain would help them grow fat and healthy to bloom in all their deep purple glory next spring. I hoped so.

I hope you enjoyed the snips. ;-) 

Next Week: The April Tip is about the Sinister Synopsis!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

IWSG: What about that SNI?

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Insecure Writers Support Group
Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time. Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG

My awesome co-hosts for the April 1 posting of the IWSG will be Suzanne Furness, Tonja Drecker, Toi Thomas, Rachna Chhabria, Fundy Blue, and Donna Hole!

I've been contemplating an interesting concept: Do Less to Do More Better. (Yes, I know the grammar is suspect, but what can you do to something said all the time. <shrug>) So, what does it mean to me as a writer? That's the question that really hits home as I finish the WIP and start to polish it, enter contests, etc.

Writing is challenging enough without loading ourselves down with so many WIPs that we drown. We all know how it happens. When our brains are in a creative mode, we start spinning out SNI--"Shiny New Ideas" at a rapid rate. Our attention gets distracted, splintered, and scattered. Our insecurities are showing. We're so scared we'll forget the SNI, we forget that the first project--the main WIP--needs care and feeding. How many of us have had the old WIP wither and die on the vine because we got distracted by the latest SNI? <waves hand>

So, what to to? I'm trying to give up my insecurities by jotting down the SNI and any bits that spin off it. Then I return to the main WIP and head for the finish line. If I feel the urge to wander, I just jot the latest idea down, and get myself back in line. It's working so far and my main WIP is being polished and entered into contests. 

What about you? What do you do to keep from being drawn in by the SNIs of your world?

Next Week: The latest installment of the Mini Book Reviews!!!